REBUILDING GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRACY
Something Is Rotten In The State
by Daniel Bennett on March 05
Certainly we live in a crisis-racked world. “The world has not seen this amount of tumult for a generation. The once-heralded Arab Spring .has given way almost everywhere to conflict and repression,” wrote Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch founded in the 1970s to support citizen groups. “Many governments have responded to the turmoil by downplaying or abandoning human rights,” using the internet to spy on citizens, using drones to drop explosives on civilian populations, and imprisoning protestors at mega public events like the Olympics.
That’s the wrong response to turmoil, according to renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto. “The Arab Springs was essentially and still is an entrepreneurial revolution, people who have been expropriated,” said de Soto. Basically, it’s a huge rebellion against the Status Quo,” and the status quo is serial expropriation – the repeated trampling of citizens’ property rights by their governments until they have no choice but to work outside the system to make a living.
So trampling more rights is the worst possible response because it pushes more people – such as journalists, activists, and entrepreneurs – outside the system. During the past twenty years, voter turnout has dropped in western democracies, including the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Canada. In particular young people are looking to bring about social change outside of the system, certainly not by voting. In the UK we are stifling free speech among students. Universities banning non-platform speeches. The government would be well advised to press ahead with plans to fine Universities who do this. The blockchain would put paid to lavish senior University lecturers ludicrous expenses debacle. Students saddled with crippling debts while vice chancellors spend thousands of pounds frequenting a luxury 5 star hotel. Most British people think that parliament is dysfunctional and corrupt. Americans think the same of congress. And for good reason: as in most countries British politicians are beholden to wealthy contributors and interest groups and any members of parliament who go on to become lobbyists. The same can be said in America 92 percent of Americans want background checks of people buying guns, but the rich and powerful National Rifle Association thwarts any legislation to effect change. So much for a “government of the people, for the people.”
The more citizens don’t feel their political institutions reflect their will, and protect their human rights, the more these institutions overstep their authority, the more citizens question the legitimacy and relevance of the institutions.
Political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset wrote that legitimacy is “the capacity of a political system is to engender and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the most appropriate and proper ones for society.”
“For individuals, it might not be desirable for them to be searchable, verifiable database of recorded history that governments could potentially use to exploit subjugate people,” de Soto said.
“The legislation of most of the countries in the world is so badly done, so unwelcoming, that the cost of coming into the legal system doesn’t make sense to poor people. Governments worldwide have outlawed the sale of electronic cigarrette vapes. When this legislation is passed there has to be clinical trials. There is a white paper for a biometric sharing process between nations. Countries have to work together on reducing national healthcare costs by reducing tobacco use. Inequality, in the world is now of chronic proportions. In the news today the fastest-growing economy, in the world – India, home of the world’s, most phenomanally gifted graduates is quickly becoming one of the globe’s greatest technology hubs. That is partially thanks to the country’s abundance of highly skilled technical graduates, whose numbers are growing at a rate of 7 percent per year. In India’s case is that economic inequality is being added to a society that is already fractured along the lines of caste, religion, region and gender. Apart from being a moral concern, reducing inequality is central to the functioning of India’s democracy.”
As legitimacy fades, libertarianism ascends. But it’s not the answer to what ails the body politic. In this troubled world, we need strong governments, and ones that are high performance, effective, responsive and accountable to citizens.
What should governments do? “Build streamline, and fortify the laws and structures that let capitalism flourish,” de Soto wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “As anyone who’s walked the streets of Lima, Tunis, and Cairo knows, capital isn’t the problem – it is the solution.” So what’s the problems? – “Getting their people identified,” he said. “There is no way a government can go in and force people inside the system. So I think that governments all over the world right now are willing to turn the system around.”
That’s where the blockchain comes in. The design principles of the blockchain should drive this transformation as it supports and enables higher levels of the following:
Integrity. To rebuild the public’s trust in political institutions, elected officials must behave with integrity. Trust must be intrinsic to the system, encoded in every process, not vested in any single member. Because the blockchain supports radical transparency, it is becoming central to rebuilding trust between stakeholders and their representatives. Ongoing transparency is critical to maintaining this relationship.
Power. Everyone has a right to take part in the government, directly or by voting. Whoever is elected must conduct affairs in the full light of day as a peer among peers. With the Internet, citizens took more responsibility for their communities, learned from and influenced elected officials and vice versa. With blockchain, citizens can go one step further; they can advocate for sealing government action in the public record in an unalterable and incorruptible ledger. Not just checks and balances among the powerful few but broad consensus of the many, for example, to effect background checks on potential gun owners.
Value. Voters must have value. The system must align the incentives of all stakeholders, be accountable to citizens rather than big money, and invest tax dollars wisely. The machinery of government must be high performance, better and cheaper with technology.
Privacy and Other Rights Preserved. No spying on citizens, no arbitrary interference with privacy, family, or home, no attacks upon anyone’s honour or reputation. No arbitrary seizure of property – real estate or intellectual property such as patents of inventors – without compensation. No censorship of news organisations, no interference with efforts to assemble. People can register their copyrights, organise their meetings, and exchange messages privately and anonymously on the blockchain. Beware of any politician who argues for trade offs between personal and public security. Remember it’s a false dichotomy.
Security. Everyone must have equal protection of the law without discrimination. No arbitrary detentions or arrests. No one person or group of people should live in fear of their own government or law enforcement agencies or be subjected to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment from members of those agencies because of their race, religion, or country of origin. Members of police forces can’t withhold evidence of undue use of force, and evidence can’t go missing. It would all be logged and tracked on the blockchain.
Inclusion. Using the internet, citizens became more involved, learned from one another. With the blockchain, the system can cost-effectively engage all citizens, recognise everyone as a person before the law, and provide equal access to public services (e.g., health care, education) and social security. Technology is a powerful tool but it alone cannot achieve the change we need. In the spirit of the saying “The future is not something to be predicted, it’s something to be achieved,” let’s reinvent government for a new era of legitimacy and trust. It’s time to stop the tinkering.